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The teen's e-mail had an urgent tone: "I know Satan tempts us, but can he physically hurt people? Does Satan know our thoughts? Just how much can he do?" Believers and non-believers alike have questions about Satan and the demonic. Some teens are especially curious. Frequent pop-culture references to the devil (the rock band Black Sabbath even issued satanic "altar calls" from stage) fuel fascination in the dark side, so it's important that our understanding be biblically based.

What Scripture Tells Us
The Bible has a lot to say about Satan, including the fact that God didn't create him as an agent of evil. Satan was Lucifer, an archangel who, along with a large but finite number of lesser angels, freely rebelled against God. That act of treason resulted in their eviction from heaven.

The devil hates God and His children. Therefore, Satan and his fallen angels—demons—are wreaking whatever havoc they can. The Bible warns that, as history moves toward Christ's return, demonic activity will increase (1 Tim. 4:1, 2 Tim. 3:1-13). A Christian need not have an obsessive fear of Satan. The powers wielded by angels, holy or fallen, don't equal God's. Satan is subordinate to God (Job 1:7-12), is not all-knowing, and can't outmaneuver God. Jesus Christ has absolute authority over Satan and his demons (Matt. 8:29, Luke 4:31-37).

Even so, the Bible emphatically warns us of Satan's plot to destroy people spiritually (Mark 4:15; 1 Pet. 5:8). Referred to as "the god of this age," he is a deceiver (2 Cor. 4:4, 11:14). Revelation 12:9 says he "led the whole world astray." Jesus calls Satan "the enemy" and says that hell was made for him and the other demons (Matt. 13:39-42).

Equal and Opposite Errors
Teens need to know what they're up against. Familiarity with an enemy is crucial for soldiers in war, and the Bible makes it clear that this world is embroiled in a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10-12). But any study of things satanic should be cautious and biblically informed.

In his preface to The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis observed, "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors."

New Testament scholar Gary Habermas, Ph.D., agrees, stating, "The Bible never says that Satan and the spirit world are not real. They are. But there is a real danger in involving oneself with this topic."

On Borrowed Time
God has given humanity accurate, though partial information about Satan and demons. We know that Lucifer's coup attempt in heaven failed, and that earth is caught in the crossfire as fallen angels still try to make war against God. The panorama of Scripture is clear about the outcome: God wins, Satan loses. Eternal punishment is a certainty (Ez. 28:15-17, Is. 14:12-15, Luke 10:18).

But does the devil know how the story ends? Has Satan read the final chapter? As a graduate student at Liberty University, I heard a classmate ask that of Dean Harold Willmington. Dr. Willmington explained that it is a virtual certainty that Satan knows the content of God's written Word, including the parts about what happens to the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41-46; 2 Thess. 1:6-10; Rev. 20:10).

"So why does Satan continue on?" the student asked. "Since the devil is aware that God's authority and power will prevail, why doesn't he surrender?"

The lecture hall grew silent as the professor explained the depths of Satan's self-destructive rebellion and the futility of a limited creature trying to vanquish the unlimited Creator. Dr. Willmington's closing comment was profound: "That's the insanity of sin. Because something finite could never eclipse the infinite, to choose to follow Satan is to align yourself with the greatest cosmic loser of all time."

The Bible makes no provision for the salvation of fallen angels, even though one day all demons will acknowledge the lordship of Jesus (Phil. 2:9-11). God does, however, redeem fallen humans. This is the good news for young people, including those whose unwise curiosity may have given the enemy a foothold. History reels under the weight of collateral damage, but Satan and his schemes are guaranteed to fail. We are vividly reminded of that each time another person joins the victorious ranks of Jesus, the King of kings.

Alex McFarland is president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and host of the daily radio program SoundRezn. He's also Plugged In's teen apologetics expert. For more on his ministry and speaking schedule, visit www.alexmcfarland.com.

Published January 2008